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Drought-busting bid to cut water fees

Posted at 1:13pm Monday 14 Sep, 2020 | By Sallly Marden reporter@localmatters.co.nz

Councillors Wayne Walker, John Watson and Greg Sayers want Watercare to cut connection costs for people on tank water who could access mains water.
Councillors Wayne Walker, John Watson and Greg Sayers want Watercare to cut connection costs for people on tank water who could access mains water.

Fears of another summer drought have led three northern Auckland councillors to push Watercare to cut connection charges for households that are currently on tank supply, but could also access town water.

Rodney Councillor Greg Sayers, together with Albany ward Councillors John Watson and Wayne Walker, say a financial incentive to encourage more people to connect to the mains network would mean fewer people would be wholly reliant on tank water.

The idea arose as a result of Auckland Council's Emergency Budget decision to rule out trucking in emergency water in tankers if there was another drought this summer.

“If Council can't guarantee water for households on tank supply, then it needs to encourage those who can, to connect to the town supply,” Cr Sayers said. “It would allow them to increase their resilience against droughts by being able to tap in and out of the water network as and when they needed to.”

However, Cr Sayers said he still also wanted the emergency tanker funding, which cost $1.4 million last summer, to be reinstated.

“I'm definitely pushing for that,” he said. “I remain deeply concerned for rural households unable to take advantage of having an option to connect to the town supply. Watercare is saying that funding gets pulled by Council and it's up to Council to put that back in place, so I've written to the Mayor, the chair of finance, the chair of planning and the new chief executive. I want to see the budget for this service reinstated.”

Crs Sayers, Walker and Watson will put forward their connection fee incentive proposal to the board of Watercare at its next meeting, on Tuesday, September 29.

A similar fee reduction initiative was run back in the days of Rodney District Council, according to Cr Watson, where mains water could be connected to a property boundary for $1000, instead of the standard $4000 connection fee. He said the average cost for water connection now was around $7400.

All three councillors believe that with the general public's awareness of the current water crisis, there would be widespread support for such an incentive scheme.

“Having access to drinking water is a basic human right and Council must better prepare for the high risk scenario of another bad drought this summer,” Cr Sayers said.

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